Foo Fighters, Muse, Ash, Sum 41, The Hives, A, Less Than Jake, Andrew WK, Vex Red, Sahara Hotnights

Caberet and classic pop-metal...

How apt that a day for drummers (special mentions below for Ash Rick McMurray and Vex Red’s Ben Calvert is rounded off by one of the club’s finest… playing a guitar and singing.

David Grohl has, he tells us played the Reading Festival six times. Twice with Nirvana and four times with Foo Fighters. The fact that he’s played here twice as many times with his own band speaks volumes about the appeal of the Foos.

Part of the joy is never quite knowing what you’re going to get with Foo Fighters – tonight it’s the strong, silent set. Ripping through the highlights of the three albums to date, Grohl remains tight-lipped – a quip about the weather, the aforementioned Reading tale and that’s about it.

However, what he lacks in chat, he makes up for in tunes. Sounding leaner and meaner (maybe) for the lack of arsing around, we get ‘This Is A Call’, we get ‘Breakout’, ‘For All The Cows’, ‘Monkey Wrench’. we also get a smattering of new songs from the forthcoming album ‘One By One’ – ‘Times Like These’ is reminiscent of their more melodic side, closest to, say, ‘Everything Fades’ while ‘Low’ is the complete opposite being as it is a full-blooded riff monster.

Naturally, Grohl can’t resist a quick arse around with a fierce version of ‘Stacked Actors’ delving into an impromptu break while Grohl runs around in the pit, climbs an advertising hoarding and tongues one of the cameras giving us good look up his nose on the big screens.

There are fireworks at the end. Explosive on two counts then.

Muse are as usual pomp, bluster and borrowed riffs. No bad thing if you like that sort of activity. Adding a spoon of doom to the mix, the heavens finally stop threatening what they been looking like doing on and off all day and get on with it. It absolutely pisses down almost in perfect sync with Matt Bellamy’s first note.

Listening to Muse is a proper deja vu experience. Not that we profess to know all that much about classical music, but surely some of those licks have been plucked straight from Rachmaninov and Beethoven. Nothing wrong with that as such, it’s actually brilliantly clever if that’s what’s going on here, it’s just that from where we’re sitting it’s hard to fathom the runaway popularity of Muse.

Still, it’s hard to argue when there’s a field of bouncing heads stretching off into the far distance. It’s even harder to argue when it’s chuffing with rain and no-one’s shifted. So we won’t.

All day it’s been rumour upon rumour about Ash and will they, won’t they following their scary experience with an upside-down bus en route to Detroit last week. The upshot is they will.

From the off, there’s little sign of the injuries sustained in the crash affecting the set, but then again Rick, after drumming for almost an hour with broken ribs, is probably pumping himself with elephant trancs as we type. Mark of course always seems to have a broken something or other so this would be like any other gig for him. And indeed he bowls on stage modelling a fetching neckbrace which he removes half a dozen songs in. Strange sense of humour that boy has.

And so to the set itself. With a greatest hits album on the verge of release, imagine our complete surprise when we get a greatest hits romp. What’s more, even the ones that aren’t greatest hits sound like greatest hits. And there’s only three of them (‘Submission’, ‘Cherry Bomb’ and ‘Shark’ in case you were wondering). Of the rest, take your pick for highlights… ‘Jesus Says’, ‘Girl From Mars’, ‘Goldfinger’, ‘Oh Yeah’, even ‘Envy’ – which isn’t even out yet – is very cosy among this wealth of riches. Cracking stuff.

It’s a brave band who launch into their main stage set with a single, thus risking the loss of the goodly chunk of the crowd who only know one song by you. Hello Sum 41 and set-opener Motivation. No such problem with losing any of today’s eager band watchers though.

Massive over there and getting that way over here is the message brought by Sum 41. Yes, we’ve seen the blueprint before and we’ve seen it better, but hell, you can’t have Green Day play every festival going. If we were into conspiracy stuff, we would be claiming that the Day have a secret hideout from which they are bashing out bands so close to them they can sit at home with the kids or whatever it is they like to do. Either that or they’re using the time to prepare the lawsuit. It’s a theory which may hold water seeing as they use the same producer… but then so do Blink 182. Whatever, Billy Joe’s stagecraft lesson encompassing the art of the breakdown was obviously a favourite of Sum 41. That said, ‘In Too Deep’ fucking rocks.

Today’s late afternoon lesson boys and girls will be about how you should never walk onto a stage as big as this unless you believe that you are the best band in the world. Enter The Hives who take credit for everything from the beating sun (‘Probably due to the fact we are about to put out a new single’) to the ticket price being full redeemed after watching them (‘It’s a lot of money to see plenty of bands you don’t like… and some you do, for example The Hives‘).

It’s so cabaret you can almost see the shimmering spectre of Danny La Rue doing the mashed potato stage left. Fortunately, he’s not dead but if he were… you know what we mean. ‘You are the best audience we have ever played to,’ Pelle Almquist tells the umpteenth audience they’ve played to. Hilarious. Still, it’s nice to see them upholding the Swedish love of spitting. It’s assisted by an addition to chewing nicotine you know. No, really.

‘Jason has a new gong,’ A’s Jason Perry points out after his drumming twin brother, Adam lets rip with said gong during one of their momentous song wind-downs. ‘He stole it from Nickleback yesterday in Norway.’

If you know anything about A, you know in all probability that this is no word of a lie. It’s part of the charm. A charm with which they are only just reaping the reward for (‘Thank you for making this the best year of our lives,’ says Jason towards the end of the set). Well, charm and songs. Bundles of them. And bundles of hyper-active energy. And a bloody-minded knowledge that they were right all along. Which, on today’s evidence, they were. Vindication is a beautiful thing.

What else is there to say about A other than they seem almost stately in the UK rock frat. Why? Are you actually paying attention to a word we’ve been saying?

With over 100 releases under their belt, ska punk macdaddies Less Than Jake bring their own sunshine as the sky temporarily threatens an opening over a large field in Reading. It’s honking horns, it’s trumping trombones, it’s boing-boing-boing, it’s… it’s… it’s… not lost on today’s more than enthusiastic throng.

That bands such as Jake are actually here fair warms the cockles. That ver kids – who you’d imagine are more au fait with the new breed gracing stages all over the site this weekend, actually acknowledge a bit of heritage when they see it is rather nice in these fickle times.

Andrew WK then. ‘Let’s Get The Party Started’ sounds like ‘The Grand Old Duke Of York’… ‘Ready To Die’ sounds like it too. Despite Mr WK’s claims that ‘this is not stoopid’, it’s not corny, it bloody well is but that’s what makes it so ace. It is about as pointless as marching 10,000 men up to top of the hill and he marching them down again.

Of course, as a spectacle, marching loads of people up and down hills would be worth a look. And so is Andrew WK. The band alone are funny, all Spinal Tap hair and some mightily impressive beards. You half hope that this really is an elaborate scam, that some time soon Andrew WK will stop halfway through a song, start laughing and not be able to stop.

Whatever way it falls, good luck to the man. Anything that raises a smile as broad as those around us now must be a good thing.

Just how good are Vex Red? If this is what Ross Robinson’s ‘boot camp’ has done for these Aldershot lads, every Tom Dick and Harry band should be banging on his door to sign up.

Making Brain Molko seem like Mike Tyson, singer Terry Abbott is a true star. There’s the floral-decked microphone stand, the rather sweet but utterly genuine awe at the sheer numbers who’ve turned up at this early hour. Being local boys, the band are clearly overwhelmed. ‘I think I’m going to wet myself’ he gushes at one point. But, most important of all, there’s rock running through his veins. A big gay bear he might be but boy, he knows how to do a show. And a show we get.

Special mention must go to drummer Ben Calvert who not only performs naked for the entire set, but manages to sound like a thousand F-14 Tomcats taking off from your dad’s garage. Then there’s bassist Keith Lambert who comes dressed as one of Polyphonic Spree and has ‘Reading Rocks’ written on his arse.

If only Sahara Hotnights took a single page from Vex Red’s book then we would have been spared the oh so serious opening to our day. Being an all-girl band just isn’t enough in the 21st Century. We’re sure they don’t want our advice but they’re going to get it anyway: lighten up for heaven’s sake. Entertainment? Remember? Just friendly advice you understand.